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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Disneyear: Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

Well folks, here it is. The final film of Disneyear, Wreck-It Ralph. I'll be honest here, I was a little iffy when I first heard of this movie. I read the basic plot of it somewhere (I bet it was Wikipedia) and thought "Okay, it's like Megamind but in a video game... it might work." But then the trailer came out and my anticipation grew. I saw the main character jumping around different video games and thought this was a really neat idea. On top of that I noticed other video game characters were there too. If you look on the poster the trailer showcased a lot of video game characters like Bowser from Mario Bros., Major Bison from Street Fighter, Clyde the ghost from Pac-Man, Dr. Eggman from Sonic the Hedgehog, even Q-Bert made it in the movie! God was it nostalgic! Then I thought it over and said "it's more like Roger Rabbit then... this looks cool!". So as it was advertised more and more, the more I got sucked into it and the more I wanted to see it. It just seemed like the coolest damn thing ever! Then Nov. 2 came along and I got to catch it this weekend. And you know what? It really surprised me. Not by how bad it is but by how damn brilliant this is. I went from thinking this was a maybe to thinking that it's a serious contender for Best Animated Film of the Year! Yeah people, it's that good! So you're probably wondering what I think makes it so good? Well guys, I have to warn you again that this is going to have MAJOR SPOILERS in here so if you don't like those, just wait till you see it then come back. Otherwise, get your quarters ready to play Wreck-It Ralph. 

Ralph (John C. Reilly) is actually the villain of an 8-bit arcade game called Fix-It Felix Jr, which is kind of like the original Donkey Kong. Feeling unappreciated, he decides he simply wants more out of life even though the other characters typecast him as a villain in real life. So he gets the idea that if he somehow gets a medal for being a hero, then maybe the others will respect him more. So he sets off to win a medal after bumping into a character from the first-person shooter Hero's Duty (similar to Halo) who mentions that heros get medals in his game. Ralph enters the game via The Central Game Station (which is a power outlet that connects many consoles together) and meets it's no-nonsense leader, General Calhoun (Jane Lynch). Ralph tries to fight and survive the game's enemies, alien parasites known as Cy-bugs, but he causes a game over by interfering with the game's user interface. Between game sessions, Ralph climbs the game's central beacon and collects the medal, accidentally hatching a Cy-Bug in the process. The Cy-bug clings to Ralph as he stumbles into an escape pod that launches him out of the game. Meanwhile, Ralph's absence has not gone unnoticed, as a girl tells Litwak that Fix-It Felix, Jr. is malfunctioning. Since broken games are unplugged, leaving their characters homeless, Felix (Jack McBrayer) sets off to find Ralph. The escape pod lands in literally a candy-coated racing game called Sugar Rush and meets with a glitch character called Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman). The two dislike each other at first since Vanellope steals Ralph's medal and uses it to enter the next race to which the King Candy (Alan Tudyk) objects simply because she's a glitch in the program. She and Ralph start to form a bond once they figure out they can fix each other's problems: Ralph can make a cart for Vanellope while she can use it to win back Ralph's medal. They also discover that they're not so different  Meanwhile in Hero's Duty, Felix meets up with Calhoun to find Ralph and restore order because the Cy-bug that departed with Ralph in the escape pod acts as a virus and can potentially spread to all the consoles and have the games unplugged. So it's up to Ralph to fix what he accidentally started and save the arcade from certain destruction. End spoilers.

Remember when I said in my Roger Rabbit review that the film was a love letter to our childhoods? Well this film is a love letter to video games. There's no better phrase to describe it. As a gamer, I waxed nostalgic for this movie. The whole film is scattered with references to video games from glitches and viruses to secret easter eggs hidden inside. There's also a ton of third party characters that make it in like Bowser, Pac-Man, Dr. Eggman, Pac-Man, Dig-Dug, Q-Bert, even Sonic the HedgeHog. Oh and Mario gets mentioned briefly. Sucks... would have loved to see him in this movie. The environments are jaw-droppingly beautiful and offer a variety of moods from cheerful and colorful to dark and unsettling. The video game setting offers an amazing amount of creative possibilities for the Disney animators, from the way the characters are drawn and animated (note the Nicelanders' limited movements and Vanellope's occasional glitching), to the way their lives are portrayed outside of their own game. What Ralph does is apparently called "going Turbo" where if you leave your own game, you have a chance of unplugging both your game and the one you enter. It's considered taboo and highly frowned upon in the arcade. Again, what a brilliant and brilliant concept.

As far as complaints go, I kind of wish the cameos were utilized better. In Roger Rabbit, other cartoon characters conversed and interacted with each other throughout the film. Here, we only get a bad-guy seminar (which was a funny scene, btw) and Q-Bert does play sort of a major role. Other than that, they're just there. But it was fun to try and spot them all, I'll admit. And it would have been cooler if the movie explored more than three games. It sticks with one a little too long, but at least it's a visually pleasing world.

As far as the story goes, it's your basic "I gotta be me" tale, but it's still a strong story. What sets it apart however are all the environments, creativity, and of course the characters. John C. Reilly does a fantastic job as Wreck-It Ralph and the character himself is really likeable. He's really a nice guy at heart that just wants a little respect, which is something we all can identify with. Jane Lynch plays another tough-ass character but again, is kind of likeable. They give her what the film calls "programmed with the most depressing back-story ever" (which I honestly thought was kind of funny as it should.) and she does show through the bond she develops with Felix that she's not so tough. Kind of nice. Speaking of Fix-It Felix, oh my God! He was single-handedly the funniest character here. I haven't laughed at a character this hard since Maximus in Tangled and part of it comes from the dorky charm of Jack McBrayer playing the role. Vanellope, played by Sarah Silverman, was kind of annoying. But to be fair, I think she was kind of supposed to be like that. The character actually grew on me later and I dare say it was perfect casting on Silverman's part. The villain is definitely one of the femmiest and funniest I've seen in awhile. He's sort of like if The Mad Hatter became evil somehow. How he's the villain and his backstory I dare not ruin for you, so go and see it for yourself. When the scene reveals it near the end, I'll admit I didn't see this odd twist coming!

While Wreck-It Ralph isn't the all-out Super Smash Brothers movie I was expecting, the movie comes with loads of surprises that are sure to delight and entertain a wide audience, gamers and non-gamers and kids and adults. There's a little something for everyone in Wreck-It Ralph. With a clever concept, good jokes (though some were a little juvenile to my tastes), great characters and voice-acting, fantastic animation and art direction, and nostalgia for gamers, this movie's a sure fire winner. I think it may of found a way in my top 10 Disney films overnight. I really enjoyed it and chances are you will too. Go see it when you can and come to your own conclusions.